A glimpse into my world…..
Working in Restorative Justice
Drawn to trauma informed principles and client centred practice, with foundational work in Social Work, Mediation (Family), Supervision and Education, I began working in Restorative Justice as a Restorative Engagement Facilitator with those experiencing abuse/violence, as a specialist for the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (currently the Commonwealth Ombudsman – DEFENCE). Over the past few years my work has offered Direct Personal responses under the National Redress Scheme, which is in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I contract with state and federal institutions across Australia, and community, religious or not-for-profit organisations to facilitate Restorative Engagement conversations. I also facilitate restorative conversations for individuals with experiences of abuse/violence within the context of relationships including family separation, family relationships and wider contexts. These experiences can be recent, long standing, or historical, and may involve single or ongoing incidents of abuse/violence.
The focus of these restorative conversations is twofold:
- to provide opportunities to participants to tell their story of abuse/violence to effect recovery and
- to build insight and understanding of abuse/violence to inform ongoing reform or transformation, that may lead to individual and systemic change.
In Restorative Engagement Facilitation, the language and process in each setting and context is tailored for each individual and supports the resetting of relationships and reclaiming of their power and control.
I have consistently observed a strong desire for individuals to impart their account or story and transfer the responsibility for the experience to another who can accept and express an effective and lasting response. The person’s account may include personal experiences or the impacts and effects of their experiences.
These conversations have taken me to diverse places, and I am privileged to have met extraordinary souls who welcome me (for a brief glimpse) into their world, trusting me to walk with them for some of their journey. I find this work profoundly meaningful. Bearing witness to each person and conversation fundamentally changes and moves me, through experiencing people’s individual capacity for good faith and hope, for their generosity and desire to contribute to knowledge and to make the world better and safer for others.
I am extremely grateful to all for all I have learned so far and for people’s generosity. I try to reciprocate that honouring by committing to providing each person with the best experience I can.
My starting considerations
Despite many different arenas and a multitude of unique circumstances, I have found there are some consistent themes and questions I consider. These are some of them.
Insights: creating the space
- Being client centred: valuing and honouring the person
- The importance of the relationship with the facilitator and the role of the facilitator
- Preparation of the victim/survivor/ and the responder/representative/perpetrator
- Building capacity for participation
- What is facilitation and what is it not?
- The importance of timing
- The role of justice
Some reflections in each situation:
- What do trauma informed, and client centred practices look like?
- How do you balance safety and doing no further harm, with the risks of not proceeding and how to proceed?
- How do you walk with a person, rather than work for a person?
- Considering how conflict can be experienced and expressed intrapersonally, interpersonally and with/between groups/institutions.
- How do people get past a lifetime of trauma and survival strategies? Is this realistic?
- Weighing up talking to the story versus the effects; what are the pros and cons of each?
- Do narrative models of restorative conversations inadvertently prioritise the story and create risks around re-traumatising and messages around proof?
- Are facilitators sufficiently skilled to support and contain trauma especially during a time of ongoing stress, tension, and the context of COVID-19?
- Has sufficient time been spent planning and preparing all participants?
- Considering managing power dynamics, inviting responsibility, accountability and collaboration.
- How to deconstruct and reconstruct the new narrative to facilitate and support recovery?
These are some of the considerations I think about in my practice and in supervising other facilitators and practitioners. There is so much to unpack in all these areas. I am interested in hearing your comments and how you prioritise and operationalise these concepts in your practice. Also, what else do you find you (need to) think about?
May 16, 2022, 2:28 am
Thanks so much Jodie for your thoughtful considerations. It’s all very well to adopt the ideas and philosophies of RJ and its practice, but it’s not a one size fits all. Some careful decisions need to be made about whether or not to go ahead, which process best fits the situation, timing, and of course preparation is everything!